Monday 20 April 2015

'You said, "It’s my favourite sport, which I love"'

Never mind politicians, it always pays to fact check BBC interviewers. 

Andrew Marr: You told the Countryside Alliance Magazine recently that your favourite sport was fox hunting. Is that really true?
David Cameron: No, I'm a believer in country sports...
Andrew Marr (interrupting): You said, "It’s my favourite sport, which I love".
David Cameron: No, I love walking...
Andrew Marr (interrupting): Is that true?
David Cameron: ...I love fishing, I love all sorts of sports. 
Andrew Marr: And shooting. But fox hunting is a favourite sport?
David Cameron: Look, I haven’t taken part in it for many, many years.
Andrew Marr: If it was made legal again would you like to fox hunt again?
David Cameron: I am only focused on one thing Andrew which is winning this election...
Andrew Marr (interrupting): We're not talking about Liam here, we're talking about the other kind.
Following the earlier questions about whether the Tories are 'the party of the rich', this line of questioning could easily be seen as an attempt by the BBC to tar the Tory leader with the brush of out-of-touch 'poshness' again (just before the interview was brought swiftly to a close). 

The Speccie's Camilla decided to do some proper journalism and check that Countryside Alliance Magazine article. She discovered that David Cameron did not say that fox hunting is his favourite sport. And he most certainly didn't say, "It’s my favourite sport, which I love", despite what Andrew Marr said.

What the Conservative leader actually said, in its entirety, was: 
There is definitely a rural way of life which a born and bred Londoner might struggle to understand. I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government.
The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government Bill in government time.
The Spectator describes what The Andrew Marr Show did there as a "smear....worthy of Russia Today".

Andrew Marr himself later responded on Twitter, saying: 
@laidmanr @spectator @millsswift oh yes it is: honest mistake – I was wrong – sorry. Cock up not conspiracy, but wrong on my part
— Andrew Marr (@AndrewMarr9) April 20, 2015
Genuine mistake or BBC bias?...

....An admission on Twitter is all very well, but surely a prominent correction on next week's Andrew Marr Show from Andrew himself is the least the BBC can do here?


Update (20.00): Steerpike at the Spectator is, understandably, trumpeting Andrew Marr's admission (and, I say, all credit to Andrew for making it).

He notes, however:
His confession comes after the BBC press office failed to respond to calls for comment from The Spectator. Likewise, Twitter accounts for the BBC Press Office and Andrew Marr Show have remained quiet on the topic, as has the account of Rob Burley, the editor of the Marr Show, despite a tweet from the Countryside Alliance saying that the story was wrong.  
Mr Steerpike concludes, as I concluded, that a prominent BBC public apology is needed.

It quite obviously is needed, but (and excepting Mr Marr from this) the BBC is constitutionally loathe to 'fess up to serious errors... will we hear a fulsome confession on next Sunday's Andrew Marr Show or will Andrew Marr himself be told by his superiors not to say anything more about the matter?

Time will tell.


  1. No, I'm sorry, no credit to Marr here. He ruined any potential for redemption by using the "conspiracy" canard as his riposte. As you know I've said a million times, no conspiracy is necessary if they all think the same way already and go with what they feel. The bias is institutional, but that doesn't mean there was a conscious plot to smear Cameron on Sunday. It happened naturally because Marr and his producers all believed it to be true and didn't bother to check it. And there was nobody around to say, hang on, that doesn't sound like anything Cameron would say, and does sound a bit OTT. Should we look it up, do you think?

    By introducing the conspiracy meme, Marr is attempting to discredit his critics more than he is responding to the criticism. As if nobody can say his bias caused the mistake because BBC haters all think there's a conspiracy. We know there really are, of course, memos from on high about orthodox positions on certain issues and actual conspiracies to infuse all of BBC broadcasting with specific messages on certain issues. Of this there is no doubt. But there was no conspiracy needed here. By using that canard, Marr avoids the responsibility of addressing his own bias, and feels he has belittled his critics at the same time. Why was it a cock-up? It was a clearly prepared line, no excuse for it not to have been verified beforehand.

    No credit to him for this faux apology.

    1. Agree.

      How does such a 'cock-up' occur? It was a blatant factual lie, on one of the most watched political interview shows there is, with the current serving PM.

      And it's all waved away with any airy 'no names, no pack drill' vague dismissal.

      And the graceless apology, such as it was, is framed more to mock any who find that damning, if it can be located at all as the juggernaut lumbers on.

      It will indeed be interesting what reference is made next Sunday, if at all. Or maybe the BBC will feel a template note posted around various staff will suffice to impress the seriousness of not making tribally-motivated sh*t up on supposedly impartial, vastly-funded broadcast networks.

  2. Very good point. I had been surprised to hear that Cameron had ever admitted to fox hunting being his "favourite sport".

    It is a serious matter as many anti-animal cruelty voters will simply not vote for anyone who appears to support animal cruelty (this came up in a Farage interview recently).

    I trust a prominent apology will follow but it is more than sloppy journalism isn't it? It's "reckless with the truth" journalism. It was an incendiary claim to put to him...surely Marr or someone on the show must have checked it out. So who made this grievous error?

  3. The easiest thing will be for whoever the most prominent Conservative appearing on the Marr show this Sunday is, to simply formally ask Andrew Marr to make a full and complete Apology -live on air - to Mr Cameron for what was clearly a planned (but false) attempt to undermine Mr Cameron in the eyes of those who disapprove of Fox Hunting. Perhaps he could actually read out the quote cited above? Alternatively they could ask Camilla Swift on to review the papers and get her to "clarify" things on on Andrew Marr's behalf.


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